20 Most Common Web Content Mistakes

When entrepreneurs decide to take their business dreams online, they tend to make a lot of common web content mistakes because websites built for visitors and the type of technology visitors use to interact with you is entirely different from networking offline and making sales calls.

Even when entrepreneurs have a seasoned online business, they still fall back on old bad habits that won’t help their online presence continue to grow. I know this all-too-well myself.

Today, my focus is to help you to avoid the common mistakes many online businesses make with their websites and social media accounts.

20 Irritating Web Content Mistakes:

1. You don’t know who your visitors are.

I know. You think you know what your website visitor wants, but if I were to sit you down and ask you the following questions, could you answer them with certainty?

• Describe your ideal visitor:

1. What is his/her age? No range. The age–period.
2. Sex? Not both.
3. The number of children? Their ages? Their sexes?
4. College educated … or not?
5. Entrepreneurial?
6. Scared? About what?
7. Happy? About what?
8. Depressed? About what?
9. Height and weight?
10. Eye color? No, I am not kidding.
11. Work?
12. Bad habits?
13. Sleeping habits?
14. Driving habits?
15. Computer habits?
16. Cell phone habits?
17. Dine out or in?
18. He/she lives where?
19. Disposable income?
20. Married? Single? Divorced? Widowed?
21. Conservative? Liberal?
22. Spiritual or atheist?

You must be able to answer these questions before you build your website, your Pinterest Page or create a landing page for your product idea. It will make all of your content publishing decisions more natural. Instead of trying to communicate to a mass visitor-base, you should use these questions to create an image of a real client, so when you do communicate online, you are talking directly to this one person, as if you were sitting in a restaurant chatting one-on-one.

I’ve had people tell me their web content is for written women over 55, yet they use some dark distracting background and font the size only an 18-year-old can read with images of 20-something women then wonder why the perfect visitor isn’t interacting with their web content.

Do you know who you are speaking to?

For more understanding your customer:

Knowing Vs. Understanding Your Customer
Customer Profile Template
How to Define Your Target Market

2. You call your website something people won't readily understand.

What search terms will your perfect visitor use to find you? Will visitors use Google? Bing? DuckDuckGo? Facebook? Twitter? Pinterest? Reddit? Buzzfeed? Will your business name and domain name work in all these places?

I love Auto Body shops. They tend to call themselves names like Franks Auto Body Repair, Joe’s Best Auto Repair, Precision Auto Repair, etc. There is no question when you read their logo what they can do for you. Why not call one of their websites: www.(name-of-city)bestautorepair.com? How many people use the term “best auto repair” along with the city when they search? How easy it would be to find them.

Naming your bike riding tips website “belle.com” before you’ve built an established brand under that name won’t bring you the same traffic as bestbiketips.com.

Simplify Your Website With The KISS Rule

When you start your online venture, no one is going to be searching for ‘Belle’, unless you have a large and very loyal client-base who knows you by that name. But in using just that name, you will miss the opportunity of getting that first shot at a new visitor looking for badass bike tips. Your tribe may never find your website because the domain name doesn’t resonate with how your visitor searches online. The same goes for Facebook, or anywhere your visitor hangs out and seeks out information. Do you realize there over 1 billion websites?

Please name your website something the world can spell so they can find you in search and your website name is already selling for you before anyone clicks on your link in search. Leave the complicated names for naming your pets.

For more on naming your domain:

Top 5 Mistakes When Naming Your Website or Company
How to Pick the Perfect Name for Your Blog or Startup

3. You ignore your valuable keyword marketing phrases.

Once you’ve figured out how these people will be searching for you –by a city, by a particular name, by a product, or by a service, and then not using this information every time you place content online is a sin. I can tell you with certainty that someone else is doing this and getting your visitors.

Nothing drives me crazier than to see a title online that says, “How To Grow ‘Petunia’ in 48 Hours” and the word ‘petunia’ is not used in the opening sentence of the content. The accompanying article image isn’t a flower.  The image is a dog. The story ends up being about a girl named Petunia who grows up in 48 hours due to a life-changing event. What?

When your visitor uses their 4 seconds of their attention span to glance at your story, will they see what they came for, or will they leave because it looked like you were talking about pajamas and dogs? Your potential visitor is not reading a book and walking the halls of the library looking for your best-selling items, so show them some kindness and tell them again why they are there. Get to your point in the first three sentences to remind them why they stopped by.

Because your post is what your title told them it would be–right?

For more on titles and keywords:

9 Secrets of Professional SEO Article Writers
Best Article Titles and Headlines Ever to Create Viral Blog Posts
When and How to Use Keywords to Improve an Article’s Search Ranking
Writing Headlines that Serve SEO, Social Media, and Website Visitors All Together
Why Text Structure is Important for SEO

4. You refuse to learn how online search and social media work, and refuse to apply those principles.

I wish I had a dime for every entrepreneur who thought they had the most fantastic idea or story to tell and trusted that just putting it on the Internet would change their lives forever. On the Internet, there isn’t such a thing as street traffic or window shoppers randomly passing by your amazing article because you “pushed it live.”

Running a website requires real work, and you must promote your work every single day–both online and offline.

You must discover where your potential visitors hang out online and engage with them there in a supportive way to encourage them to visit your website to get more (where there is hopefully more) of beautiful you, your products or your service.

Where they hangout may mean your presence on Facebook, too. Or Twitter. Pinterest. Get over it.

For more on social media marketing (SMM):

Social vs. Search: 9 Differences Between Social Media and SEO
The Definitive Strategy for Driving Organic Traffic Without Ranking in Google’s Top 10
How to Easily Double Your Traffic from Social Media
Social Media: The New Hybrid Element of the Promotion Mix (Research paper – pdf)

5. You make everything you put online all about you.

I am blown away by businesses that claim what they want on their website instead of telling me what it is their potential ideal visitor will want.

“But I want to tell my story, my way!”

Would people at a party stand there and listen to you tell this story? At this length? With that opening?

Some businesses want to dump their feelings about their love of something on to their visitor without realizing the visitor doesn’t care–no matter how great they believe their product or service might be. If you are a business owner reading this who thinks you’ve never made this mistake, then you are the worst kind of online contributor: one who doesn’t question your web content all of the time.

I’ll quote Seth Godin here, “When you are busy telling stories to people who want to hear them, you’ll be tempted to tell stories that just don’t hold up.”

For more about it not being about you:

19 Experts Explain Why Your Website Isn’t Bringing in Customers
How to Make Creative Content That Really Tells Your Brand Story
The 10 Commandments of Marketing from Seth Godin
The One Rule About Content Marketing is It’s Not About You

6. You don't bother to make your content easy-to-read.

Not understanding the rules of how people read on the Internet and thinking that you can bend these rules because your ‘rose story’ is so amazing is BS. Ever go into a grocery store when they’ve moved around the merchandise, and you can’t find what it is you usually buy?

Doesn’t it frustrate you to the point of crazy? What happens when you attempt to hunt it down, and you can’t find anyone to ask? Have you ever walked out of the store without purchasing anything or leaving a half-full cart in the aisle? If so, then you do know what kind of a hassle this type of irritation is to consumers.

Why wouldn’t your frustrated web visitor leave when it’s just a click of a button to go?

And those annoying auto-play video ad pop-ups and notification permission pop-ups. They disengage visitors too. Marketers will try and tell you otherwise–don’t believe them.

To read more on readable content:

8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content
Entry Popups Could Be Killing Your Conversion Rate
F-Shaped Pattern of Reading on the Web: Misunderstood, But Still Relevant
Scrolling and Attention
The 15 Second Rule: 3 Reasons Why Users Leave a Website

7. You neglect to stay with a basic structure, or topic.

You must define a topic for your website, just like you must decide on a USP for a business. A USP is your unique selling proposition. Having one sets you and your blog apart from your competition.

The most successful websites have a well-defined niche with a target demographic in mind.

Starting out talking about swimming, then switching to candle-making, and later discussing your fear of flying will only confuse your readers. You won’t develop a following.  And you have to watch that this isn’t a sign that you quit things too quickly before they’ve had a chance to develop, or it’s another way you set yourself up to fail.

You also won’t be able to link your blog posts together to form a cohesive story-line. Your story-line matters to search engines and your readers even if it doesn’t matter to you.

Don’t be one of those people who has a website where you are a “Life coach/graphic designer/make-up artist/author/part-time chef.”

Choose One! Uno. PERIOD.

You can create 5 websites targeted to each of your passions and link them to each other, but stick with just one niche on each site.

And make sure the specialty you chose is something you have a real interest in promoting. Managing more than one website is a pain, but you’ll quickly find out which pursuit you’re most interested in sharing. For your website to become a success you will need to be able to regularly update and promote your web content. You will need to live it every day. You need to pick something that you are willing to work at for at least 3 years.

For more on niches:

9 Simple Tips for Writing Persuasive Web Content
Finding Your Niche and Sticking With It is the Key to Success
How to Connect with a Hard-to-Reach Audience: A Niche Marketing Strategy
Single Topic vs. Multi-Topic Blog: Which is Better and Why?

8. You give up on your online business dream too soon.

Building a successful online presence takes time. It can be an agonizingly slow process. Every successful blogger and online business owner knows about the 3-month itch–the point at which you run out of things to say about your project and you become bored with your chosen niche. You grow tired of updating your Facebook Page, your website content, your Google Business Page, Instagram photos, and your Twitter feed.

You thought it was going to be easier.

It’s okay only to update your web content once a week. Just know that your site won’t grow as fast as others, but it is better to have a schedule and stick to it, then to only update your content twice a year.

But understand that there will be times that you hate all the time you spend online promoting your big dream. When this happens try looking for inspiration in a new place. Try looking at your dream business from a different perspective.

For more on not giving up:

5 Ways to Avoid Side Hustle Burnout
How Long Does It Really Take to Rank at the Top of Google’s Search Results?
Navigating The Dips
The Shocking Reality of Scaling an Online Business
Want to Earn a Living Creating? Here’s Your Mountain

9. You don't interact on social media--you don't interact with people online.

Ignoring your visitor interactions is the same as not responding to emails or phone calls about your topic/product or service. You should visit other blogs and websites where your perfect visitor hangs out and engage with them in a real (non-selling) way.

Responding back in your comment section and interacting with visitors to your social media sites and gently responding to reviews is a sign that you are a professional and you value what you offer. You don’t have to comment on every single interaction on your social media pages, but showing up to comment once in a while says you are not a poser.

Answer questions online. Help other people solve problems. Help another struggling website by being the first to comment on a post they’ve written.

Treat people online the way you’d like people to respond to you. 

Promote blogs, websites, writers, entrepreneurs who compliment your niche and who are just starting.

Reading popular social media pages, their comment sections and online reviews in your niche helps you understand your target audience and gain new perspectives on what you could be doing wrong. Another way online businesses blow their interactions with visitors is to have people jump through registration hoops to interact. Don’t put up an extra wall between you and your visitors.

Visitors have the right to voice their opinions–even if you don’t like what they have to say. Negative reviews can give your business authenticity and a reason for a satisfied customer (who might not usually comment online) to speak up to defend your business. Be sure to respond with reverence–how you want a business owner to treat you if you are unhappy with a product or service.

And NEVER engage with people online in anger–ever.

For more on engagement:

7 Customer Engagement Strategies for Small Businesses
Facebook Engagement: How to Get More Likes, Shares, and Clicks
How to Engage and Delight Your Readers So They’re Begging for More
The Importance of Interacting on Social Media
The Ultimate Guide to Responding to Positive and Negative Google Reviews

10. You write boring article and page titles.

Advertising genius, David Ogilvy once wrote that “5 times as many people read the headline as read the body.”  Crafting a great page title or article headline may be the only chance you get to sell someone on clicking through to visit your website.

If you don’t stop potential visitors with your title, 99% of your time spent on your web content is a waste of time. The purpose of a headline is to get people to click-through and scan your page. From the title, they typically read only the first 120 characters of the first paragraph before they begin scanning the page.

Are you reaching out from the page and grabbing them by the throat? Does your title shout, “You must read this!” Is your keyword phrase included? Think about how you read and interact on the web. Do you think your visitor behaves differently? I like what author, Victor Urbach says about this topic:

“The only purpose of the first paragraph is to get them to read the second paragraph, and so on. A headline is an engine that pulls this train.”

Don’t make your titles so long so that it makes it impossible to tweet your post and share your article. Always count your headline and try to keep it under 70 characters. Make it easy for people to help promote you.

For more on headlines and titles:

Best Article Titles and Headlines Ever to Create Viral Blog Posts
Clickbait or Damn Good Headline?
How To Write Page Titles And Meta Descriptions For SEO
Microcontent: A Few Small Words Have a Mega Impact on Business

11. You display your content like you are writing a book while ignoring the basic Internet rules.

A. You don’t bother to link your content.

Linking is vital because it helps your content behave like a resource for your readers. Don’t put the title of a book in your content without linking out to where they can read more about it, or purchase it. Help search engines understand what your topic is about by linking your keyword niche phrase articles.

B. You write in long paragraphs and don’t use bold or sub-headings.

It is hard to read on the Internet (which is different from reading on a Kindle) don’t make it more difficult by having paragraphs longer than three sentences. Break your content up with sub-headings in bold, so it helps keep the visitor’s eye on the page.

Don’t combine a bunch of font-styles and font colors, or use italic styling all over the place. It’s distracting. Keep it simple. And easy to read. And stop with the extra !!!! and CAPS!! Let your words communicate feeling for you.

For more on web content:

Contextual Link Building: 4 Proven Ways to Get Rank-Boosting Links
A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Popularity and Links
How to Make Your Content More Readable
Research Shows Having A Bad Website Can Hurt Your Business
Typography for Glanceable Reading: Bigger Is Better

12. You are too nice online and you never hold a risky position.

People want to hear a unique voice when they are reading the Internet. Don’t talk in corporate-speak, or lawyer-speak, or sales-speak. Talk to your readers like they are sitting next to you. Have a strong opinion. Don’t be afraid to be bold and write something outrageous!

But mostly, be original.

Allow your followers to tell you that you are wrong, you missed the boat and point out your faults. It’s what makes for engaging web conversations. But do not let anyone insult you with cruelty or lies.

For more on why you should have a strong online voice:

3 Tips For Creating Controversial Marketing Campaigns Without Destroying Your Brand
25 tips for Becoming an Online Influencer
Controversial, Risky, and Offensive Content: When is it Appropriate for Online Marketing Success?
The Science of Creating Controversial Content

13. You look to make money too soon before you've built a trusted following.

You need to concentrate on perfecting your message and your web content first before you think about asking for money. Work hard at discerning what your visitors want from you first. Too many people begin their online venture thinking about the money instead of solving problems, entertaining people or adding value.

Don’t get sucked in by claims that you can make six-figure incomes in your first year online. What they may not be telling you is that the owner of the platform in question failed at 6 other online businesses before making good money and has been working towards the business idea for years. Proceed with care.

For more on making money online:

12 Ways You Can Absolutely Make Money Online
Don’t Start Marketing Before You’re Ready to Start Selling
How to Attract Enough Visitors to Your Website to Earn a Living From It

14. You won't accept constructive feedback and lack a critical eye when it comes to your creations.

People naturally tend to ignore their weaknesses–a universal human trait, but when you want to sell to the public, you must understand your weaknesses. You must be able to look critically at what you are putting out for people to digest. Constructive criticism can assist you in bridging the gap between your perception of how terrific you think your content is and what others are seeing. Having a critical eye helps to make you a better dreamer.

If someone tells you that your website is hard to read–ask them why. Then look at what they are experiencing from their point of view. If people tell you that they don’t like it every time you post social media content about animal cruelty, consider putting that topic to rest.

Care about what your readers are saying. Quit looking at everything from “… but this is what I want to say …” You should always read your website analytics reports like a detective to see your website flaws, which brings me to number 15 on my list here.

For more on accepting constructive criticism:

5 Tips for Gracefully Accepting Constructive Criticism
How Do You Handle Negative Feedback? A Business Coach and a Fitness Entrepreneur Share Their Experiences
The Dos and Don’ts of Handling Bad Online Reviews
Thick Skin Thinking: How To Use Negative Feedback To Your Advantage

15. You don't bother with analytics reports or look for problems on your website.

You should dissect your analytics reports at least once a month to see where you are missing the boat.

Look at what your web content is doing for the visitor:

⇒ How long are people staying on your pages?
⇒ Do your visitors click on your links or visit more than one page on your website?
⇒ Do you have pages with a high Bounce Rate?
⇒ Are visitors abandoning your checkout cart or not completing online transactions?
⇒ What are your popular exit pages and why are people leaving your site?

If visitors are staying on a page or post less than a minute–go back and review it. If you aren’t sure what is wrong ask someone not involved in your business to read it. If you do not care enough to analyze your web content, then you shouldn’t have a website. Give search engines a break.

For more on evaluating your website:

5 Information Architecture Warning Signs in Your Analytics Reports
6 Tools That Reveal Why Your Users Abandon Your Website
12 Awesome Custom Google Analytics Reports Created by the Experts
A Guide to the Standard Reports in Google Analytics: Audience Reports
Frequency and Recency of Site Visits: 2 Metrics for User Engagement
Search-Log Analysis: The Most Overlooked Opportunity in Web Research

16. You make it difficult for visitors to connect with you.

There are many valid reasons for building an email list, especially if you are planning product launches, but you should create one even if you’re not. Search engines and social media sites like Facebook change their practices all the time.

You do not want your web traffic entirely controlled by search engines or social media sites. Your email list belongs to you, and no algorithm change can affect your list. Your list should be more critical than your traffic. Having an email list offers you the opportunity to further interact with your readers by providing them something special that they won’t get by dropping by your site.

But you should also have a clear and easy way for visitors to contact you. Not having a contact page sends the message that you don’t want to hear from your visitors. Visitors often find broken links, missing images, comment issues, and old pages with wrong or dated information. Offer them a way to tell you.

For more on contacting and connections:

Acquiring Customers with Email
23 of the Best ‘Contact Us’ Pages You’ll Want to Copy
Seth Godin: Permission Marketing
Website Forms Usability: Top 10 Recommendations

17. You don't bother optimizing images or understand how to use photos effectively on the Internet.

I don’t care if you are a freelance writer, you take lousy photos, and your phone camera is the worst–you need to add photo elements to your stories.  People like to see images with content. But you don’t have to be a professional photographer to add stunning images to your content. There are quite a few top quality free image sites available.

Images, remember they are content too. You need to help search engines understand what they are about by correctly describing them. So also learn how to use Alt tags. Learn how to set your vertical and horizontal spacing, placement, linking, and the ability to open your images in a larger webpage if you want people to download and them. Create simple edges or borders around your images that don’t take away from your content.

My favorite image peeve is when someone uploads an image on to the Internet with a name of something like “4869874472000.jpg.” How on earth does this benefit anyone? If it is a picture of a sailboat name it “sailboat.jpg” before you upload it and place with your web content.

You need to learn and understand DPI to make sure your image content loads quickly for your visitors. Renaming the image from what your device named it is just one more step in the image optimization process.

What often sets a website apart is the quality, relevance, and placement for maximum impact.

For more on images see:

Image SEO: Optimizing Images for Search Engines
LunaPic – Free Online Photo Editor
Pixabay – Stunning Free Images and Illustrations
Optimizing Images for Web: A Practical Guide
Unsplash – Beautiful Free Photos

18. You have set your videos or podcasts to auto-play.

Visitors often look at websites while at work and they don’t want to disturb others in the room or their bosses to know. Allow your visitor the choice of when they want to hear your message. Auto-play videos, podcasts and video ads are just plain annoying, along with the ability to forward the audio is purposely disabled.

For more on website annoyances:

17 Things People Absolutely Hate About Your Website
2018 Is The Year Autoplay Video With Sound Dies
Do Not Autoplay
The Rise and Fall of Autoplay Video in 5 Charts
Video Usability

19. Not testing your website on other platforms.

You need to check out your website/blog on other people’s computers with different operating systems and browsers, so you see how others see your site. This is also true of mobile and tablet testing platforms.

For more on browser testing and web compatibility:

8 Essential Tips for Building a Cross-Browser Compatible Website
Browser Shots
Test My Site Think With Google
Website Grader
Webpage Test

20. Believing just because you have a great idea people will automatically flock to you.

Ever since we all saw the movie, Field of Dreams, entrepreneurs on the Internet, writers dreaming of publishing contracts and all manner of start-ups have imagined if they “build it” visitors “will magically come.” I don’t know what it is about putting up a website that makes people think Google will love it and index the content to page one of whatever glorious search term then visitors from all over the world will flock to see what you are all about. Within a month you are a millionaire.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Unless you are Madonna.

There are more than 14.3 trillion pages live on the Internet. Please read that again. The world is distracted. Why do you think if you build something online people will automatically flock to see it?

Are you remarkable? And when I say remarkable–I mean like Coen brothers’ movies remarkable?

⇒ Do your images take a viewers’ breath away?
⇒ Does your web content make grown men cry?
⇒ Do you get angry emails?
⇒ Does the media talk about everything that you do?
⇒ Are you scared when you hit the publish or post button?
⇒ Do you believe in something so passionately that you can’t sleep at night for wanting to work at it?
⇒ Does your web design or logo win awards?
⇒ Do you want it so badly that your stomach hurts? Does your passion shine through on your website and social media interactions?

How does a piece of art stand out in a museum; a house stands out on the street; a car attract your attention, or a beautiful woman (or man) catch your eye in a nightclub? It’s because something about the experience of seeing them is remarkable. It’s worth “remarking” or talking about to other people. Web content is no different.

The web universe is fair. There is no such thing as in overnight success. The world requires that you pay your dues and prove just how badly you want it. You will be tested at every turn. Don’t believe me? Then ask every successful online entrepreneur.

Roll up your sleeves and get a job that supports you while you are building your online reputation. Connect with a business network that will support you. Band together. You can rise faster if you connect with a top online marketing mentor or a group of entrepreneurs working their way to the top.

Also always have a backup plan, a plan B, and an emergency exit plan for everything you are doing online.

For more on why ‘build it and they will come’ doesn’t work:

8 Reasons You’re Not Getting Any Website Traffic
How I Get Over 100,000 Visitors a Month With Top List Articles
Why No One is Visiting Your Website and How to Increase Website Traffic

What I have written is what I have learned in my years spent creating web content and helping business with their online presence. Have I made these mistakes? Absolutely. That’s why I know so much about them. Do I still make some of these very mistakes on my websites? Yes, sometimes I do, especially when I am exhausted.

One of the most critical factors in business is that you look at the realities of your situation–not what you wish it to be–and make decisions based on those facts. It may make running a business a little less glamorous, but I promise you that it will make your entrepreneurial journey more realistic and more likely to succeed.

Catherine Hughes

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